Saturday, May 29, 2010

Orthotics? What's the point?

Those of you who may follow me on Twitter or Facebook (or even read the other blog) may know that I wear orthotics. As defined, orthotics are "orthopedic 'appliance[s]' designed to support, straighten or improve the functioning of a body part; an orthosis." The ones that adorn my feet (and have since I was eight years old) are called SMOs, or supramalleolar orthoses. Before I turned eight, the doctor prescribed that I wear an AFO (ankle-foot orthosis) on my left foot, while an SMO was on the right.

Before the transition, I wore two AFOs, which is standard for children with cerebral palsy, and they are often referred to as "leg braces" to the general population.

As a general rule, I disagree with orthotics. Though they have assisted me to achieve my current level of ambulation, I believe that they give the consumer a false sense of reality. Through the early years, orthotics will be helpful to a child, but as he/she matures and develops, they become more of a hindrance than an assistance. For example, if my SMOs were not "trimmed" at the toes, I would not have known what the ground felt like when walking, and it could have taken more time for me to successfully achieve that goal. Orthotics have been a key player in my achievements with mobility and balance, but I feel as though they have become one of the older practices in children with disabilities and medical needs.

Think about the definition of the word "orthotic" described above. Life shouldn't be like that. A veer off the straight and narrow path of life, and the traditional methodologies for your career, for your family, for your academic life, or for your social relationships is the way that they spoil, the way that they expire, and the way that they can die out. Such a "cookie cutter" of an existence can cause one to slowly burn out and feel out-of-place, feel unwanted, or feel as if there might be something of a higher passion instilled within him/her.

As a matter of fact, a realization of a true dream and the realization that it can come true has happened in my life over the last few months. Since I was young, I have been heavily immersed in the medical field, due to the fact that I have had many, may, many issues and doctor visits over the years (as have many of you!), and I feel as though it is, and always has been, my calling to enter into the medical field.

I've never been able to find a profession, aside from that of a medical doctor, which will allow the interactions with patients that I think I'm seeking. It's always been in the back of my mind to go to medical school, but what if you do not enjoy math, science, and the things associated with the endeavor? Many would think that it would be problematic, but it's really not. There are ways that you can become a medical doctor and still not specifically enjoy either one. In fact, in recent years, according to my university's pre-medical website, students who have non-science based degrees.

Thus, it is my dream to go on to medical school to become a pediatric physiatrist and/or a developmental pediatrician, or a Doctor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

One thing I desperately hope for my medical school career is that it isn't dominated by orthotics, figurateively or literally, and that I am able to enjoy the benefits of the practice I've been doing by wearing shoes without my braces for quite some time now. If its a strenuous day, I usually try to stick to an athletic shoe, but more and more, I try to expose the situation in as many environments as possible, similar to the philosophies of the clinical years of medical school

Are you ready for the wild, orthotic-free ride for the next nearly twelve years?

image credit: TC Flex AFO System


  1. I hope you never lose your idealism and altruism. So often medical school beats you down and turns you into a pessimistic and bitter shell of your former self. That's certainly what I've found. Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating slightly, but you get the picture!

    Good luck with it all! Is that twelve years until you qualify as a doctor or until you complete residency?

    Will (@bungeechump)

  2. This is an absolutely beautiful discussion of some of the pratfalls of the medical field. When I was in high school, and seriously considering being pre-med in college, I was told by an admissions counselor at UMDNJ that I would be a better doctor if I took the prerequisite courses and majored in something I truly loved. Even though I adore chemistry and biology - I was encouraged to be an art major!

    His reasoning, and one I think you will also agree with, is that doctors who have studied something other than science, math, and medicine, tend to think outside the box more readily. That means thinking of ways to help patients gain the balance and mobility that come with orthotics without necessarily forcing the false reality for life.

    I think your reasons for pursing medicine, and the path you have planned for yourself are truly admirable. I let my chance at a career in medicine slip away, at least for now, because of other life goals. Don't let yours go. We need more doctors like you!

    -Lauren (@unguidedmissile)

  3. Do you think, based on your experience with orthotics, that it could be more of a weeing process for some? Like a child learning to use them, and how you've kind of stopped using them in your adult life.

  4. Peanut used orthodics when she was younger. Specifically the Sure Steps. Now she has "hot dog" inserts in her shoes to help with her arch and turned in ankles. However, I see your point. We can never become complaisant in the medical field and need to keep looking for ways to improve. We are lucky to have you on our side!